“Women in my family have a history of going overdue,” I warn the midwife at my ﬁrst ofﬁcial appointment, hoping she’s not the type to pressure me into tons of interventions if I go a day over forty weeks.
“No worries Mandy,” she chuckles, patting me on the knee, “As long as your blood pressure is good and the baby’s heartbeat is regular, you can be pregnant just as long as you want. Forty weeks, forty-ﬁve…”
I laugh out loud, throwing my hands up, “I certainly don’t want to be pregnant thatlong!”
“I don’t blame you,” she smiles, picking up a small cardboard wheel. “Let’s just get a ballpark date though, all right?”
I launch into an excited monologue as she ﬁddles with the wheel, both of us too involved in laughing speculation about my pregnancy to notice the month of conception is set to November, not October. “Let’s say your due date is August 8, but we won’t make any ﬁrm plans,” she announced, jotting the date down on my chart.
Something about the date seems off too me, but I’m too distracted to think it over. After ﬁnishing with the midwife and enjoying an afternoon shopping for baby items, I come home to an empty apartment. I drop the bags of baby clothes by the door as I walk from room to room, ﬁnding no sign of my boyfriend’s existence beyond the two cruise tickets we bought to celebrate our two year anniversary on July 20. Even his least favorite sweater is gone.
“Bugger,” I mumble, sitting down hard on the bed. I put my hand against my still-ﬂat stomach and mutter, “Well, I guess it’s just you and me now.”
-:- -:- -:-
The months ﬂy by. I’m too caught up in moving into a new home and getting everything ready for a new arrival, plus trying to get my business to run without me that most of the time I don’t even make it to my regular midwife appointments. Fortunately, she’s understanding, taking the readings I get from my doppler and blood pressure cuff and dispensing advice over the phone.I do make it for one appointment in July. My midwife frowns as she measures my fundal height.
“Well, you’re certainly carrying big,” she tell me, “You’re measuring a few weeks ahead.”
“Is that a problem?” I ask hesitantly, one hand on my huge stomach.
“Not at all,” she says heartily, “Some women do. I’ve seen some of the biggest moms have the littlest babies too. There’s no way of knowing.”
“So, I’m still on for my cruise?” I ask hopefully. I need this vacation, a little downtime before the baby arrives. I hadn’t planned on going by myself or on going pregnant, but life happens.
“Only if you promise to show me the pictures when you get back!”
-:- -:- -:-
I waddle slowly down the corridor of the Tahitian Princess, both hands cradling my massive belly. I’ve been having some fairly nasty cramps since late last night, and another one squeezes me as I walk, forcing me to stop and lean against a wall until it passes, breathing hard, the movement vaguely detectable under my green dress.
“Are you all right?” a young woman asks nervously as she approaches me from the opposite direction, glancing only quickly at my belly before looking back at my face, doing her best not to acknowledge my advanced pregnancy.
“Hooooo…” I breathe out in relief as the cramp releases me and stand back up, making my belly jut out even more. I smooth my long, dark hair back and give her a smile. “I just overdid it yesterday with the walking tour.”
Appeased, she nods eagerly, “Oh, wasn’t that wonderful! All those ruins… It tired me out. I can’t imagine doing it in your condition!”
“It was worth it,” I say, slowly resuming my long waddle towards the dining room. I’m already late for lunch and starving. Eating for two isn’t quite as much fun as it sounds, and I’ve gained sixty pounds with this pregnancy.
I make it without further incident, and take a seat at a secluded table, feeling a bit ﬂushed and out of breath. I blame the long walk. At almost thirty-nine weeks along, any kind of exertion takes a lot out of me.
By the time I have my meal, I’ve been joined by two of my regular tablemates, Erin and Becca, who sit down, chattering eagerly about their plans for our day at sea. I smile as I think about the night we met, barely noticing my belly hardening with another cramp.
Everyone has been trying not to be noticed staring at my belly, and the tension at the table is palpable. I give a little wave and address the problem head-on.
“I’m Mandy Vine,” I introduce myself, “And I still have four weeks to go, so there’s no reason to worry.” The tension breaks at once, and everyone starts talking at once.
Erin is the loudest, “You still have four weeks to go? You already look like you’re about to burst! You must be so uncomfortable.”I pat my belly with a smile, answering their questions as I assure them that yes, my midwife cleared me for this cruise, and no, I’m not planning to have a c-section. Erin and Becca both ask permission to touch my belly, marveling at its size and hardness.
“It’ll probably be a big one,” I admit, although still hoping that my midwife was right about big moms sometimes having small babies.
“You look like you’re having twins,” Erin informs me.
“Triplets!” Becca counters.
“I hope not!” I laugh, and the three of us become immediate friends.
“I might go for a swim,” I volunteer.
Becca nods sagely, “It’ll do you good to get all that weight off your feet.”
I wince as my back spams, and I shift uncomfortably in my chair, feeling my belly ripple. “You’re telling me,” I agree, my voice high and breathless.
“You okay?” Erin asks, reaching out to pat my belly before pulling her hand back in surprise, “It’s hard as a rock!”
“I overdid it yesterday,” I say again, leaning forward and trying to work out the painful kink in my spine, “I’m paying for it now.”
The girls exchange a look, and Becca says carefully, “You don’t think you’re going into labor, do you?”
I try to smile, “That’s… not on my to do list…” No matter how I move, the cramps and spasms are getting more intense, not less.
She nods, “Then I’m sure a dip in the pool will help a lot,” she says practically.
I push my food around on my plate, suddenly no longer hungry. “I think I’ll do that now,” I agree, bracing my hands on the table to stand up. Another cramp rocks me as I do, and I stay hunched over for a long moment, struggling to catch my breath.
Erin’s voice seems to be coming from a long distance away. My head swims as I straighten up, and I hear the sound of water splattering against the tile ﬂoor. My hands ﬂy to my belly as the feeling of sticky ﬂuid running down my inner thighs suddenly registers.
“Your water just broke!”Becca’s voice is loud, and the dining room goes completely silent as every head turns to look at me. I stand motionless for a long moment before trying to process the situation.
“I think… I might- Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” My huge belly heaves and I double over, crying out in pain as an incredible cramps rips through me. As my belly goes tight, I feel more ﬂuid trickling out of me and things become painfully clear: this is a contraction, not a cramp. My labor has begun!
“She’s having a contraction! That woman’s in labor!” Everyone in the room is suddenly discussing my plight, no one sure what action to take beyond exclaiming about it.
I hear a voice close behind me, and recognize the smooth accent of Pierre, the ship’s steward. “If you’d just sit down, Miss Vine, I’ll take you to the medical bay.”
Unable to do anything but obey, I sit down blindly and ﬁnd myself seated in a wheelchair. “Good luck, Mandy!” Erin and Becca call anxiously as Pierre carefully turns the wheelchair and starts to walk me out through the dining room. My fellow shipmates call out words of encouragement as I cradle my massive belly in my hands, the sheer weight of it forcing my thighs apart.
Just as we near the door, I feel another cramp-contraction seize me. I grab the arms rests and lean into the squeezing pain with a loud groan, “Ooooooooohhhhh!”
Through the haze of pain and confusion, I hear the dining hall behind me erupt in applause.
“You’ll be just ﬁne,” Pierre assures me as the contraction ends, patting me on the shoulder as he wheels me briskly through the ship.
“I can’t believe this is happening!” I gasp, feeling like my body has turned on me. This is not what I had planned for my vacation!
“Babies come when babies come,” he says sagely, “All will be well.”
After what seems like hours of attracting curious stares on our journey, I’m wheeled into the ship’s medical bay, a medium-sized room done in shades of cream containing a plushly-upholstered exam bed and little else.
Pierre wheels me up to the bed. “I’ll go and get Dr. Harris,” he tells me before leaving the room through a different door. The weight of my belly is uncomfortable, and I’m seized with the need to lie down. I brace myself on the armrests and push out of the chair, rewarded by another contraction. “Ohhhhhhhhhhh!”
I lean on the side of the bed, breathing hard as my belly ripples and quivers. I can’t stop moaning, but I can still hear the doctor as he comes into the room, talking urgently to Pierre, “I’m a cruise ship doctor! I treat scrapes, sunburns, and hangovers. I don’t deliver babies!”
“You do today,” the steward informs him, and my contraction starts to fade as he leaves the room. I watch the doctor look around helplessly before going to a stand of books and retrieving one, ﬂipping through the pages until he ﬁnds the information he wants. He looks at me standing by the bed and tries to smile, “Well, I’m Doctor Harris, and it looks like I’ll be delivering your baby.”
“We can’t make it to shore?” I ask in dismay, only now realizing what all this means.
My visions of a nice quiet hospital birth with an epidural are fading fast, resolving into a picture of me giving birth in a rather public place attended by a doctor who doesn’t have much more of an idea of what’s happening than I do.
He shakes his head in regret. “The company doesn’t let us deviate from our course. There are all kinds of ﬁnes involved. The only way you’re going to deliver on shore is if you’re still in labor tomorrow afternoon.”
Instinctively, I put my hand against my bulging belly, shaking my head, “No, thank you! I don’t want to do this for another day!”
“Well, we’ll see. I should check to see how far along you are.”
He helps me up onto the bed, and I lie back gratefully. The position makes it hard for me to breathe, but at least it takes some of the pressure off my aching back. I spread my legs obediently as he snaps on a pair of gloves, eases my panties off, and gently cleans the remnants of ﬂuid from my thighs. “Okay, Mandy, take a deep breath.”
With one hand at the top of my massive belly, he carefully eases the ﬁngers of the other hand into me. I wince as I feel him exploring my cervix, the sensation creating strange pressure. He withdraws after a moment and removes the gloves, going back to look at the book he’d examined earlier. “It looks like you’re somewhere between three and four centimeters.”
“Out of ten?” I say in dismay, “That’s not good.”
“It just means this is still early stages of labor,” he assures me, looking vaguely hopeful, “Maybe we’ll make it to shore after all. How far apart are the pains?”
“I’m not sure,” I admit, my time sense distorted since all of this began. “I guess we’ll have to start timing them.”
He nods, retrieving a stopwatch from a drawer and sitting down in a chair near my bed, watching me. I watch him in return, seconds turning into hours at the awkward moment as both of us wait for a contraction. When it comes, it’s almost a relief to have something break the tension. I roll onto my side, moaning as my belly goes tight and hard under my sundress.
“Breathe, Mandy, nice and slow,” the doctor coaches me, and I try to obey, my belly rippling in waves of pressure that start low in my pelvis and wash up over my entire huge mound. “You’re doing a great job,” he tells me as the contraction releases me. As I get my breath, he asks, “Did you do any birth classes?”
“No time,” I admit, wishing now that I’d made the time, so at least one of us would know how it was supposed to go.
“Well,” he says, ﬁddling with the stopwatch, “It’s a natural process.”
The minutes tick by until another contraction comes, once again making me groan and shift on the bed as I look for a position that will ease some of the pain of labor. Nothing seems to help, and I gasp in relief when the contraction ﬁnally ends.
“Seven and a half minutes,” Dr. Harris informs me. “You’re in active labor.”
After that, there’s not much to do but wait for the contractions and try to deal with them as they hit. As time passes, they seem to become more intense but they remain somewhere between seven and eight minutes apart even as my groans grow louder and more desperate.A noise at the door makes me look up, and I see a blond woman with her hair in a ponytail let herself into the medical bay, carrying a huge purple ball.
“I heard the news,” she announces as I recognize her as the ship’s aerobics instructor, someone I’ve had no cause to interact with during my time on board. “I think everyone’s heard the news by now,” she chuckles. “You’re in bed?” she asks me, shaking her head, “No, no, no. You want to get gravity working for you. Here.” She puts the ball down and motions for me to come sit on it as she announces cheerfully, “My sister had a baby last year, and she used one of these.”
I look at it doubtfully, but I’m open to trying anything that will help this birth go well. With Dr. Harris’s help, I manage to get off the bed, swaying dangerously for a moment before waddling over to the ball. I need both her and Dr. Harris to hold onto my arms in order to sit down on it, and I shift uncomfortably once I do. “That’s good,” she tells me, “This position helped my sister progress.”
I have to hold onto a table to keep from falling off the ball as the next contraction hits, and I instinctively start to move my hips in a ﬁgure-eight, the ball rolling easily under me. “Great!” she praises, calling over her shoulder as she heads for the door, “Just let your body tell you what to do. Good luck!”
Dr. Harris ﬁnds an examination gown for me and helps me into it, the soft blue material feeling nominally more comfortable than my maternity dress. “You’re doing ﬁne,” he tells me soothingly, as I sit hunched over on the ball, my eyes closed as I try to listen to what my body wants me to do.
The hours pass with excruciating slowness as my contractions get closer and harder until they’re only ﬁve minutes apart and lasting nearly two minutes. I scream out as the latest contraction peaks hard, and Dr. Harris nods. “I think you’re getting close. I’d like to check you again.”
“Oh, thank god!” I gasp in relief at his words, “I don’t think I can do this much longer!”
I’m sweaty and shaky, barely able to stand even with his help. I waddle heavily back to the bed, the doctor supporting nearly my entire weight. I lie back and spread my legs shamelessly, hoping that I’m nearly complete. I purse my lips and blow through the exam, eager to hear how much I’ve progressed.
“What?!” I go up on my elbows in shock, my sweaty hair falling in my face. “That can’t be right! How long has it been?!” I’ve lost all track of time since my labor started, but it seems like I’ve been at this for days. Surely I should have progressed more than a centimeter and a half!
“Seven hours,” Dr. Harris says reluctantly, not quite meeting my eyes. “It’s just after nine at night. You got here around two.”
“This baby’s going to kill me!” I gasp, holding my big belly in both hands, trying to feel where the baby is.
“First time labors take awhile,” he reminds me.
“This long?!” I demand.
“No,” he concedes, “No, I thought you’d be delivering by now.” He picks up the book, riﬂing through it, as I lie bathed in despair. “Intense contractions coupled with slow dilation can indicate a malpositioning of the descending head,” he reads aloud, “This is especially true in cases where the mother’s amniotic sac ruptures prior to the start of contractions.”
“That’s me all over,” I sigh. Another contraction slams into me and I arch off the bed, bracing one elbow under me as I curl around my massive belly. “Nnnnuuuggghhhh!”
“Breathe,” Dr. Harris admonishes me as he continues to read. This contraction is the worst one yet, and I cry out in agony as I feel my womb clenching around the baby, trying to force it down into my birth canal. My pelvic ridge feels like it’s going to shatter, my entire lower body being ripped apart by the malpositioned infant.
“Ohhhhhh my god, I’m gonna die!”
“You’re ﬁne, Mandy, just breathe,” he tells me as I howl through the rest of the contraction. As I gasp for breath, he keeps talking, “We just need to get you up and walking. That will bring the baby into the correct position for delivery.”
“I can’t move!” I moan, but he pulls me into a seated position anyway, my belly huge in my lap. Another tug brings me to my feet, my narrow hips popping as the baby settles deeper in my pelvis.
“Let’s get some fresh air,” he advises, and I waddle helplessly along beside him as he leads me out onto the secluded section of deck outside the medical bay. No one is there to see me as I pace back and forth, having to stop every few minutes and cling to the railing as the labor pains come hard and fast.
“Still no baby?” I hear a kindly voice beside me as I groan through a big contraction, wanting to throw myself overboard into the sea just to escape from this horrible pain. When it ends and I turn around, I see a pair of gray-haired ladies I’ve noticed around the ship but never spoken to.
“I’m Ellen and this is Dotty,” the one in the pink sweater introduces herself. “We wanted to see how you were doing.”
“I think I’m dying,” I moan piteously as I once again begin to pace. They fall into step with me and Dr. Harris, stopping when I do as a contraction overwhelms me.
“Between the two of us, we’ve had seventeen babies,” Dotty tells me sympathetically, “We understand. It looks like you’re having a rough labor.”
“She’s having a hell of a time,” Dr. Harris conﬁrms what is already obvious, “She’s a trooper.”
My knees buckle as I go into another contraction, and I drop into a deep squat, clinging to the railing. “Uuuugghhhhh! Ohhhhhhhhh god! I’m gonna die! I’M GONNA DIE!”
“Mandy, do you feel any pressure?” Dr. Harris asks me.
“I feel like I’m gonna burst!” I groan. The pain in my pelvis is becoming unbearable, blindingly intense, making me feel like I’ll never walk again.
“That’s a good sign,” Ellen observes, and the doctor agrees.”I hope so. Let’s get her back on the bed. I’d like to check her again.”
Strong hands go under my arms, pulling me up. I stagger back into the medical bay, clutching at the undercurve of my massive belly, “It’s gonna fall out!”
“That’s a very good sign,” Ellen says again.
I fall back onto the bed, breathing hard, the contractions right on top of each other. I barely notice as Dr. Harris inserts his ﬁngers into me again to examine my cervix. “Six centimeters,” he pronounces as he withdraws his ﬁngers, “This baby isn’t in much of a hurry.”
Ellen and Dotty give each other looks over my head. “She’s not going to last too much longer,” Ellen diagnoses, “If this baby doesn’t show up soon, she might be too tired to push it out.”
“Come on,” Dotty puts her hand on my arm, coaxing me to sit up, “We need to get this baby moving.”
“We’ve seen a few tricks over the years,” she tells Dr. Harris, who steps back, willingly ceding control of the proceedings. As they help me to my feet, she whispers, “You won’t like this, Mandy, but it’ll help your baby come.”
At this point I would be willing to deliver while lying on the midnight buffet if it would put an end to this hideous pain. Even so, what Ellen and Dotty have me do is nearly impossible. Ellen positions a low stool in front of me, and then takes my left arm while Dotty takes my right. With their help, I manage to step onto and back off the stool sideways over and over again as my belly contracts and my pelvis creaks, on the verge of shattering.
It feels like some kind of medieval torture, but Dotty tells me that it can help a malpositioned baby straighten its head out. “The midwife had my sister do this when her baby got stuck,” she tells me in a cheerful tone that seems completely out of place.
After what feels like hours, my legs are shaking too badly to continue, and I plead to be allowed to stop. “No more! I don’t want to do this anymore! I don’t want to have a baby anymore!”
“It’s too late for that,” Ellen points out as she and Dotty lower me to the ﬂoor so that I’m kneeling with my left leg up and braced on the stool. “Let’s just rest like this for a little while then.”
The two women hold me up as contraction after contraction rips through me, leaving me a howling, sweaty mess. Dr. Harris listens to my belly with his stethoscope, “Heart tones sound good.”
“You’ll have a baby soon, Mandy,” Dotty reassures me.
“I don’t care!” I wail.
“Okay, okay.” Ellen helps me to lean forward until I’m resting on my hands and knees, my back bowed under the weight of my massive belly. “Let’s try one more thing.”
She reaches under me to feel the lower curve of my belly which nearly touches the ﬂoor. With her palms, she starts to jiggle and press on my stretched skin, and my eyes roll back in my head as I moan.
“Come on, baby,” she talks to the infant I’m desperate to expel, “Your mom needs you to come down now. That’s weird. I think-“
“AAAUUUUGGHHHH!” I rear off the ﬂoor onto my knees, roaring as I feel the baby’s head land squarely on my cervix, shoving down hard. “It’s CCCOOOMMMINNNGGG!” The pressure is immediate and unmistakable.
“You did it!” Dr. Harris exclaims as he and the two women haul my contracting body off the ﬂoor and back onto the bed. He slides his ﬁngers into me as Ellen and Dotty try to hold me down while I thrash in agony. “Seven centimeters…. no, eight! Eight and a half! Mandy, I can feel you opening up down here! You’re dilating fast!”
“I have to push!” I yell, the urge so intense that I feel like I’ll explode if I don’t bear down right now.
“Just a little bit longer,” Dr. Harris promises me. “Eight and a half…. come on, come on, just a little bit more…”
“This baby’s coming now! Let me push!” I shout, nearly arching off the bed.
“You’re almost there, Mandy!” he calls back. Ellen blots my sweaty face with a cool cloth as I writhe and scream. “Eight and a half…. Nine! You’re at nine!”
“I WANNA PUSH!”
“One more contraction!” he vows. “You’re so close, Mandy!”
“Hold on! You’re almost there! Just hold it a little bit longer!”
“I can’t! I ccccaaannnn’tttt!” I draw my legs back, spreading my knees wide. “Ohhhhhhhhhhh GOD! I have to push NOW! It’s COMING!”
“Yes, it is, Mandy. Yes, it is. Just hold on. Nine centimeters…. come on…. nine and a half! You’ve almost got it!”
“I’m gonna BLOW! UUUUUGGGGHHHHHHH!”
“Nine and a half…. nine and a half…. come on…. you’re so close…Nine and- TEN! PUSH!” Dr. Harris jerks his ﬁngers out of me, and leans over the table between my legs, peering into my tortured vagina.
I gasp in relief and take a big breath, my eyes squeezing shut as I push down. “Nnnnuuugggghhhh!” I grunt loudly as I use my inner muscles to try to force the baby down. It’s sitting so low inside me that I expected it to drop right down, but it doesn’t move at all with my push.
“You’re doing great, Mandy!” Dotty praises me. “Keep it up!”
I gasp for breath and hold my belly, feeling tremendous amounts of movement and kicking. I grit my teeth and give another shove, straining around the big head that’s pressing hard into my cervix. My feet curl with effort, but I still don’t feel any progress.
“God, this is hard!” I pant out, shaking my head at how much effort I’ve already put into the process of giving birth, and I’m just now starting to actually deliver.My heels are slipping on the bed as I helplessly try to straighten my legs with each push.
Ellen moves to stand by Dr. Harris, examining the bottom of the bed. “Does this thing have stirrups? She needs somewhere to put her feet.”
After a few moments of ﬁddling, I feel my feet being lifted and placed into metal heel cuffs on either side of the bed. I brace my heel against them and give another shove, the position giving me more leverage to try to shove the head down and out of me.
“That’s great, Mandy,” Dr. Harris praises me, “Good hard pushes. Can you scoot down here a little bit?”
“No!” I gasp, but Dotty and Ellen push on my hips and shoulders to help move me closer to the end of the bed. My pregnant belly has a life of its own, bulging and rippling under my gown, every movement intensifying the contractions until all I can do is hold onto the edge of the bed and howl in agony. “Aaaaaauuuugghhhh!”
“You’re doing ﬁne, just relax,” Dotty tells me as she smoothes my sweaty hair off of my face, “Don’t ﬁght it; let it happen. Let your baby come down.”
“I’m trying!” I sob. “It’s not moving!”
“You’re doing great, Mandy!” Ellen assures me, as I writhe and sob in agony, “Some times babies are just big and stubborn. You’ll get it out. Just keep pushing! Push!”Dotty puts her arm around my shoulders and helps me to curl around my massive, contracting ball of a belly. “Push hard, Mandy!” she orders, and I close my eyes and bear down until my entire body is shaking with the effort.
“Uuuuuuuunnnggghhh!” Deep inside of me, I feel tremendous pressure against my cervix, then a strange burning as it starts to give way under the force from the baby’s descending head. “It’s… it’s coming!” I gasp.
The head pulls back up into my womb as I stop pushing, but I deﬁnitely felt some progress that time. My head falls back as I gasp for air, my belly heaving. “Great job, Mandy! Great job!” Ellen tells me. “Keep ‘em coming.”
“Push hard!” Dr. Harris orders, “Push your baby out!”
“Push, Mandy! Shove it out!”
“Bear down! Push! Push!”
Everyone is shouting at me to push, and I couldn’t stop now if I wanted to. My body has gone completely out of control, heaving and surging constantly, my uterine muscles working to force the baby down through my cervix and into my birth canal.
“It’s so BIG!” I howl as I work to shove the huge cantaloupe of my baby’s head lower.
“It’s a big one, but you’ll get it,” Dotty assures me. “Now push! Pushpushpush!” She helps me to sit up a little more, crunching around my enormous belly.
“AAAUUUUGGHHHH!” My tight cervix gives out, and I suddenly feel the baby lurch downward, the head shoving deep into my canal. “There it is! Holy shit, it’s coming! IT’S COOOOMMMMIIINNNGGG!”
Both Dr. Harris and Ellen lean closer to my vagina, struggling to see any sign of the coming baby. Fingers dip into me, tugging my lips apart a little bit. “I think I see a head!”
“That’s deﬁnitely a head!” Ellen calls up to me. “You’re doing it, Mandy! Here comes your baby!”
“YYYYAAAAUUUGGHHH!” Another hard push and the baby drops more.
“Oh, Mandy, things are starting to happen down here!” Ellen says in excitement. “I see a bulge!”
“It hurts so bad!” I sob, my once-tight canal being stretched wide by the baby’s big head. “That’s childbirth,” Dotty says philosophically as she helps me to sit up more. “You’ll forget about the pain as soon as you see your baby.”
“I doubt it!” I gasp, leaning into another hard push. Between my thighs, I feel myself starting to stretch. “Oh my god! There it is!”
“You’re really bulging now, Mandy,” Dr. Harris tells me. “Really bulging.”
“It’s going to be a big one,” Ellen agrees, and I moan in denial. “You can do it. Push, Mandy, push!”
I lean into another hard push, groaning as I strain around the head. My belly bulges out with the force of the contraction, huge between my thighs. “Nnnnuuuugghhhh!”
“It’s coming! Just keep pushing! Keep pushing, Mandy!”
My chin drops to my chest as I bear down, Dotty pushing me forward even more. I grab the backs of my legs, shoving with all my might, my face turning dark red as I struggle with the large head. I feel my vagina start to sting and cry out, “Aaaahhhhhhh!”
“That’s it, I see it!” Ellen shouts. She beams up at me over my massive belly, “It’s got dark hair, just like you do, Mandy!”
“UUUUGGGHHHHH!” I push harder, my back arching as I ﬁght to shove the head out of me. The stinging intensiﬁes until my vagina is red-hot, my tight labia stretching to let the head emerge. “It BURNS!”
“That’s the head coming out,” Dotty tells me. She blots my sweaty face and rubs my shoulders soothingly, “You’re almost there!”
“It’s starting to crown, Mandy,” Dr. Harris says, running his gloved ﬁngers carefully over my tight labia, “Your baby’s almost here. Now, let’s have a big push!”
I bear down again, my eyes going crossed with the effort, sweat pouring off of me. The area between my legs is on ﬁre, ready to split open. “MMMMMMMMMM!”
“That’s a great push! Give me another one just like that!”
“UUUGGGGHHHH! WHHOOAAA!” I yell as my vagina opens more, making me feel like I’m stretched wide open.
“That’s great! I can see a nice little slice of the head,” Dr. Harris says, and I groan in despair when I realize the head isn’t as far out of me as I thought it was. I give into the urge to bear down again, shrieking as I feel my labia on the verge of tearing. “AAAAHHHHHH! It’s ripping me apart!”
“Okay, Mandy, stop pushing!” Ellen orders, pressing her hand to the lower curve of my massive belly. I purse my lips and blow as I try to obey her command, my body barely under my command, the urge to push overwhelming.
“Hoooooo! HOOOOOOO! I need to push! HOOOOOOO! I really need to push!”
Between my legs there’s a whispered consultation, then Dr. Harris places his hand ﬁrmly over my bulging labia as Ellen tells me, “Mandy, you’ve got a big baby in there. If you’re not careful, you’re going to tear.”
“I don’t care!” I sob, the urge to push growing more intense by the second, “I just want it out!” Surely the pain of tearing can be no worse than the pain this head is causing sitting wedged in my opening.
“You’ll care if it happens,” Dotty cautions me, massaging my shoulders as I blow and cry and groan in agony.
“Mandy, you are not going to push. We’re going to let the contractions bring the head down until it’s fully crowning. That will give you time to stretch.” Dr. Harris sounds calm, like he’s asking me for the time, not to ignore the urge to push that every cell in my body is demanding.
“I can’t hold it!” I moan piteously, my whole body shaking as I try to ﬁght the urge to bear down. “I have to push so bad!”
“Breathe it out,” Dotty tells me, demonstrating what she wants me to do, “Heeheehoooo… heeheehoooo…”
“Heeheehooo! Heeheehooo! HeeHEEEheeeHEEEheeHEEE!” My breath is coming fast and shallow, but I’m somehow resisting the urge to push. Dotty helps me to lie down, as I clutch at my heaving belly with both hands.
She blots off my sweaty face and strokes my hair. “You’re doing great, Mandy!”
I look up at Ellen and Dotty’s faces above me, my eyes pained and desperate as I keep panting, “HeeeheeeeHEEEEheeeeheeeeHEEEEheee!” The contractions are coming hard and fast and every time my body surges, the urge to push becomes more intense.
“That’s it, Mandy, the head’s coming down,” Dr. Harris tells me.
“You’re doing ﬁne, Mandy. Great job.””HeeeheeeheeeheeeHEEEEE! HEEEEEE! HEEEEEEE!”
“You’re doing ﬁne; you’re doing ﬁne. Keep breathing.”
My labia are burning unbearably, and I can feel myself stretching wider as the latest contraction peaks. “I can see a little more head down here!”
“HEEEE! HEEEEE!” I thrash my head from side to side, the urge to push completely overwhelming. “I caaaannnn’tttt! Gotta PUSH!”
“No, Mandy!” Everyone shouts at me to hold back, but I can’t wait another second. This baby is coming whether they want it to or not.
The force of my push curls me off the bed as I shove down hard. “Nnnnuuggghhhh!” I can feel intense pressure between my legs, but my labia don’t part any further. I grit my teeth and bear down harder, bellowing in rage as I realize what’s happening.
Dr. Harris has his hand over the baby’s head, holding it inside of me and pushing back so it doesn’t emerge further. “NOOOOOOOOO! LET IT OOOUUUTTTTT!”
“Mandy, you have to slow down and let yourself stretch!” He keeps his hand where it is, holding the head back by force. I grit my teeth and push harder, trapped in a warped game of tug of war.
“I’m gonna BURST!” I yell, “Let it come out!”
Dotty and Ellen try to pull me back down onto the bed, and I ﬁght them off, my head thrashing from side to side in my frenzy. All three of them are yelling, their words overlapping, barely audible over my tortured screams. “No, don’t! Stop pushing! The head’s too big! Don’t push! Breathe it out! Blow, Mandy, blow! Don’t push! Don’t push! Don’t push!”
“AAAUUUGGGGHHHHH!” My roar reverberates through the room as I push with all my might and suddenly Dr. Harris’s hand slips and my labia stretch wide as the huge head shoves halfway out of me. I stop pushing, gasping in the sudden silence in the room as everyone looks between my legs, feeling myself stretched open way past my limits.
“Here it comes,” Dr. Harris says, “Push it out.”
I throw my head back with a howl of triumph as, with another huge push, the head comes bursting out of me in a gush of ﬂuid. “YYYAAAAUUGGHHHH!”
I fall back ﬂat on the bed, gasping frantically as my vagina tightens around the baby’s neck. “There’s the head!” Dr. Harris calls.”The head’s out, Mandy!” Ellen cries, sounding on the verge of tears.
“Did I tear?” I moan, my vagina feeling almost numb from the huge head I just pushed out.
“No, you didn’t,” Ellen assures me, “You did great!”
“You pushed it out face up,” Dotty continues, “That’s really hard to do, and you did it!”
My belly tightens, and I groan, clutching at it, “Ohhhhhhhh, I gotta push again!”
“That’s the shoulders,” Dr. Harris tells me, “You’re almost there.”
“Do you want to sit up again?” Dotty asks, helping me up when I nod, my breath coming hard as the urge to push grows more intense. “Give us a big push, Mandy!”
I grind my teeth and bear down, feeling the shoulders grinding against me. “Uuuuggghhhhhhh! Ohhhhhh god!”
“That’s good, Mandy! Stay on that!” Ellen praises.
I lean forward more, pushing down harder, the shoulders feeling incredibly wide inside of me. “Uuuunnnngggg! It’s stuck!”
“No, it’s not,” Ellen says ﬁrmly, “It’s a big baby and it has wide shoulders, a few more big pushes and you’ll have it out. Push!”
“Big hard push, Mandy, come on!”
I grunt and Dotty pushes me more upright. I grab my knees and shove, the wide shoulders pushing against me hard, making me shriek at the pain.
“I’m trying!” I groan, my desperate cries echoing through the room as I keep bearing down, feeling Dr. Harris tugging on the head, trying to ease the shoulders out of me.
“PULL IT OUT!”
“I can’t! Push!” he orders me, and I fall back onto the bed, my back arching convulsively as I shove and shove, trying to work the wide shoulders loose.
Suddenly, Ellen takes hold of my right foot and presses it backwards, bringing my knee up to my chest. “Come on, Mandy, you can do it! Push it out!”
“NNNNNUUUGGGHHHH!” As I shove, both shoulders begin to push out of me at once, opening me up even wider than the head did.
Ellen pushes my foot back more until my knee is nearly to my chin, and I keep bearing down, Dr. Harris explaining the hideous stretch I feel, “Shoulders are coming through… oh wow, those are wide… keep pushing, just a little more… Armpits… bigpush, come on…”
I grunt, my eyes going wide as I feel a slither between my legs. “I’ve got an arm! PUSH, Mandy! There’s the other one!”
Ellen lets my foot rest back in the stirrup as I hover in the moment, my vagina yawning around the baby’s thick torso, out to its hips. “Oh my god, that’s a big baby!” Dr. Harris exclaims.
“It’s coming out!” I groan deliriously.
“PUSH!” Dotty shouts, and I thrash helplessly for a moment before ﬁnding the strength for one last huge push.
There’s another gush of ﬂuid between my legs and a blissful relief of pain. I look up to see Dr. Harris holding a huge infant up above me. “It’s a boy!” he exclaims.
I stare up in shock for long moments before I realize what has happened. “I just had a baby!”
“You sure did!” Dotty sobs, giving me a hug as Dr. Harris and Ellen work on cleaning the baby up. They dig out a scale, and the next thing I hear is Ellen’s voice exclaiming, “Twelve pounds, eleven ounces!”
The numbers don’t make much sense to me, but there’s a babble of shocked voices. I shift uncomfortably on the bed, my still-huge belly rippling with a cramp as Dr. Harris throws the medical bay’s door open and shouts, “It’s a boy! Twelve pounds, eleven ounces!”
Distantly, I hear hoots and cheers, but my attention is caught by the rippling waves of pain washing up over my belly. “That’s your placenta,” Ellen tells me, as Dotty leaves my side to coo over the baby. “Give a push whenever you feel like you have to, it’ll come right out. That part’s easy.”
My breath comes hard and I gasp a little, moving around as the cramps intensify. “Ooooooooo…”
“Do you want to push?” Ellen asks, and I shake my head painfully. I don’t feel pressure, just waves of cramps that feel an awful lot like contractions. Suddenly, I feel something big and heavy drop down in my womb, and I gasp, going rigid.
“It takes a little while to detach sometimes,” she says, not noticing my discomfort.
“Ohhhhhhhhhhh!” I groan as my belly surges and the big, heavy thing moves around inside of me, landing a ﬁrm kick to the front of my belly, “I think I’ve got another one in here!” I call, clutching my belly with both hands.
Ellen laughs kindly, “That’s normal. It’s just the placenta. Why don’t you try giving a little push and we’ll see if we can get it out of you?”
I shake my head, struggling to sit up. I can feel kicks up the front of my belly, and the contractions are getting steadily more intense, “I’ve got another one in here!” I say again, my voice high and frantic, “I’m having twins!”
“You’re not having twins,” Ellen soothes me, patting my big belly, just as another kick drills into the spot her hand rests. She jerks back, wide-eyed, “Oh my-“
“I’m having twwwwinnnnsss!” I groan, falling back on the bed with a moan as another contraction hits hard, making me writhe.
“There’s another one in there! I felt it kick!” Ellen calls to the room’s other occupants.
“Oh no, oh the poor girl!” Dotty gasps. Dr. Harris shakes his head, swallowing hard.
Behind me the door opens again, and I cry out in agony, feeling the second baby moving inside of me, stretching out. “It’s TWINS!” Dr. Harris calls into the night, and an audible groan of sympathy ﬁlters back.
He closes the door and goes back to the book he’d been consulting earlier. Thumbing frantically through the pages, he ﬁnds relevant information. “Second twins are generally smaller and easier to deliver. However it may be necessary for the mother to labor for a time if her cervix has contracted after the birth of the ﬁrst baby.”
Ellen presses on my belly, feeling the baby for herself. “I think you’ve got another big one in there,” she tells me sadly. “At least now I know what I was feeling when I was trying to get the head to come down.”
At Dotty’s curious look, she explains, “When I was jiggling her belly, it seemed like I could feel something next to the head. I think that’s why it took you so long to dilate, Mandy, both heads were trying to come down at once.”
“Sibling rivalry,” Dotty grins, “Get used to it now, Mandy.”I’m groaning continually, shifting desperately on the bed to try to ﬁnd a comfortable position. Dotty picks up a cloth and wipes my forehead again. “I’m sorry, Mandy, you’re in no mood for jokes, are you?”
“I can’t do this again!” I sob, twisting from side to side as the baby moves inside of me, the birth of the ﬁrst twin giving it more room to maneuver. With another ﬂip, I feel a lance of agony down my spine, and I shriek, putting my hand behind me to press against my spine, feeling like someone has driven a red-hot knife into it.
“Mandy?” Dotty blots my face, leaning down closer to me. My vision has blurred with the sudden pain, leaving me barely able to see her look of concern. I clutch at my back with one hand and my belly with the other, writhing and screaming on the bed.
“Back labor,” Ellen diagnoses from somewhere above me, “Lying down won’t do her any good.”
I can hear Dr. Harris reading aloud, speaking up to be heard over my screams, “Back labor is frequently a sign of a malpositioned baby- generally posterior- which can result in a longer and more painful labor and delivery.” The book crashes into the wall as he exclaims in irritation, “Can’t anything about this just be easy?”
“You’re not the one trying to give birth here,” Dotty chides him, reaching down to grab my hands and pull me into a seated position on the side of the bed. My belly is huge and heavy in my lap, showing the size of the twin I’ve yet to deliver. I let my head fall back as I continue to yell incoherently in my agony, feeling like my body is being torn apart.
“Uuuunnfff!” I grunt as the two women pull me to my feet, the baby sliding deeper into my pelvis as I wobble. Ellen tosses a blanket down on the ﬂoor for me to kneel on, and she and Dr. Harris help me to my knees as Dotty rolls the exercise ball over in front of me.
“Lean on this, Mandy,” Ellen advises, and guides me down so that my head rests on my forearms on the ball, my belly hanging low under me. Someone starts shoving my my lower back, and I gasp in relief as the blazing spike of pain fades a little as a result. “Does that help?”
“Yes!” I choke out. The waves of pain crashing over me are still intense, but at least I no longer feel like I’m being drawn and quartered. “I can’t do this again!” I wail as I feel the baby moving inside of me, its head already wedged deeply in my pelvis.
“Yes, you can,” Dotty pats my shoulder, “Women have twins every day.”
I shove my hips back as the contractions keep coming, hard and fast. My belly bulges hugely below me as the baby inside of me tries to ﬁnd a position that will allow it to be born. “The ﬁrst one almost killed me!” I gasp in pain and fear.
“Oh, now,” Dotty chides me gently, “It did not. You just wished you were dying, that’s all. You were never in any danger, Mandy.”
“Birth hurts,” Ellen says in ridiculous understatement, “But you’re not going to die having these babies.”
“Mandy-” Dr. Harris begins, but whatever he was going to say is lost in my howl of pain when he relaxes the pressure he’s been putting on my lower back.
“AAAAUUUGGGHHHH!” I throw my head back as pain once again explodes through me. Hastily, he once again shoves down against my spine and I nearly black out with relief as it once again eases.
“All right, Mandy, all right, you’ve got this,” Ellen assures me, “Just breathe. Breathe.”
I’m breathing and panting and moaning as the contractions rip through me. I grunt as I feel the pressure on my back ease for a moment, but it quickly returns. Fingers invade my raw canal, and Dr. Harris announces, “You’re at eight centimeters, Mandy. You’re doing great.”
“I want it ooooouuuttttt!” I yell, tears running down my cheeks as the endless pain, “Get this kid out of me. GET IT OOOOUUTTTT!”
“We can’t do anything until you’re dilated, Mandy,” Dotty tells me. “Just hang in there. It’s almost over.”
My eyes roll back in my head and I nearly convulse as the contraction peaks, my belly as hard as a rock around the second baby. “Make it stop!” I beg frantically, digging my ﬁngers into the ball, “I can’t do it! It’s too much! Ohhhhhhhh my god, this baby’s gonna kill me!”
Dotty blots off my sweaty face. “You’re not dying. You’re in transition. It’s almost over, Mandy.”
Ellen kneels down beside me and presses the heels of her hands to either side of my bulging belly. She presses gently and strokes downward, making me groan as the
pressure against my cervix increases. “Come on, baby,” she murmurs, “You need to get your mom dilated so she can get you out.”
“I can’t do this!” I wail. I can feel the force of the baby’s head shoving down into my cervix, the agony of being stretched open too much for me after my ﬁrst difﬁcult delivery. “NOOOOOOOOO! No more! I’m DONE!”
Desperately, I claw my way to my feet, shoving at the hands that are trying to stop me. Clutching my huge belly, I stagger towards the door to the medical bay, trying to ﬂee this torture chamber. I grunt as the head comes down a little more, ﬂuid trickling down my inner thighs.
“Mandy, there’s no stopping this! Your baby is coming!” someone calls from behind me, and I ignore them, continuing to lurch forward, grunting with every breath. I grab the handle and pull back, the door swinging open as the hardest contraction yet slams into me.
I shriek and my legs give out, sending me into a deep squat as I cling to the door handle. “AAAAAUUUUGGHHHH!” With the door open, everyone in the area can hear my cries of agony, but I’m oblivious to the show I’m putting on, knowing only that I can feel a huge breadth of skull being forced through my cervix as the second baby prepares to be born. “NNNNAAAAHHHHH! IT’S COOOMMMIINNNGGG!”
“We need to get you back on the bed, Mandy!” Dr. Harris says nervously as he and Ellen slide their arms under mine to help me stand back up. The door swings shut as I release it, once again giving me privacy to deliver.
“Gotta push!” I groan, managing only two steps before the urge hits hard. My eyes roll wildly as I’m lowered into a half-squat, my thighs parallel to the ﬂoor as I bear down hard, “Uuuuuugggghhh! Gotta get it out!”
They haul me back to my feet and I manage three wobbly steps this time before the urge to push once again becomes unbearable. I arch my back, staying upright only because of Dr. Harris’s support, my entire body given over to expelling the baby.
I grunt in protest as I’m pulled to my feet again, and Dotty speaks quickly, “Just take a couple more steps, then you can push again. It’s almost over, Mandy.”
It seems to take hours to cross the small room, my waddling walk interrupted every two or three steps by another strong push. My canal is slowly being forced open by the descending head, but each time I stop pushing, it pulls back up into my womb.
The frustration doubles my efforts, and I clench my teeth, my whole body shaking as I try to shove it lower. Finally, I’m able to lean on the bed, and I feel Dr. Harris’s ﬁngers slide into me once more as I huff and puff through another contraction.
“You’re wide open, Mandy, and the head’s starting to come through.”
“I know!” I groan, every ﬁber of my being alert to the huge head trying to squeeze its way into my canal.
“Keep it coming, Mandy!” Dotty encourages me as she presses against my lower back, “You’re almost done!”
I desperately want to stop. I’m exhausted and in so much pain that I’d welcome unconsciousness. The need to push is too strong to ignore though. Every time I try to stop to catch my breath, I ﬁnd myself bearing down again in a grunting, screaming rush. The head grinds down with every surge, but I can’t seem to push hard enough to move it into my canal. “It’s too big!” I gasp in agony, “I can’t move it down!”
“The book says second twins are smaller,” Dr. Harris assures me, “You’re just worn out from the last one. Keep pushing. You’ll get it out.”
My knees buckle as I strain around the head, and several pairs of hands help me down into a squat beside the bed. I cling to the side, my ﬁngers going white as I shove with all my might. Despite the doctor’s words, the head wedged inside of my womb feels even bigger than the ﬁrst.
“That’s it, Mandy,” Dotty says as she crouches behind me to keep up the pressure on my lower back, “Push, push push.”
“Uuuuuggggghhhh! GOD!” I grunt, pushing as hard as I can. My canal spasms as the descending head forces it to stretch open for a long moment before I have to stop pushing to catch my breath, and it withdraws once again, “It hurts sooooooo bad! I can’t do it!”
“You can do it, Mandy. Just keep pushing. Keep pushing, keep pushing. Push!”
Somewhere over my head, I can hear Dr. Harris and Ellen talking, then Dr. Harris kneels down next to me. “Do you want some help, Mandy?” he asks me, and I’m gasping in agreement almost instantly.
He puts one hand on the small of my back, the other at the top of my bulging belly, applying pressure there as I continue to bear down. With him pushing on my stomach, I can feel the head moving down more with each surge.
“AAAAUUGGGHHH!” I yell, “It’s coming!”
“Great job, Mandy!” Ellen exclaims, “Just keep pushing like that, and it’ll be over soon. You’re almost there!”
I keep screaming and bearing down and Dr. Harris keeps pressing on my heaving belly. Slowly, the head works its way through the mouth of my womb into my canal, and I howl with every contraction, my eyes going wild as I become aware of the sheer size of the baby that I’ve yet to deliver. “It’s big!” I gasp, as my canal struggles to stretch open to accommodate the big head.
“You’re just tired,” Dotty assures me, “Keep pushing, Mandy. You’re almost done.”
“You keep saying that!” I groan. The three of them have been telling me for hours that I’m almost done, and I’m still deep in the throes of labor. “Well, you’re the one who decided to have twins,” Dotty teases me, and I let out a wail of frustration as much as pain. She pats me on the shoulder in sympathy and blots my face with a cool cloth. “Sorry, Mandy.”
I lean back, most of my weight on my arms as I hang off the bed. This position seems to line the head up with my opening a little better, and when I bear down this time, I can feel the head moving deeper into my canal. My feet curl with effort as I push and push, Dr. Harris keeping me from falling backwards as he continues to apply pressure to my rock-hard belly. “You’re making good progress, Mandy,” he assures me, “It’s coming down.”
I stop pushing for a moment and pant for breath, gathering the tattered remains of my strength. I suck in a deep breath and curl around my belly, shoving down with all my might. “AAAUUUGGGHHHH!” I unleash a full-bodied scream as I feel the head drop lower, suddenly shoving deep into my canal.
“That’s great, Mandy! You’re doing great!” Ellen exclaims. Dr. Harris removes his hand from my belly and reaches between my legs.
“I can feel a bulge down here, Mandy,” he tells me, “You’re getting really close now.”
I spread my knees wider, feeling the size of the head wedged inside of me. My arms shake as I lean back a little more, my back arching painfully as I try to shove the baby down more. “Uuuuuggggghhhhh! Feels like…. a bowling… ball!” I grit out as I bear down. My canal is spasming around the head, feeling like it’s in danger of splitting open. Even considering the size of the baby I already delivered, the second twin feels massive.
“Keep pushing, Mandy! Keep pushing! Pushpushpush!”
“GOD! It’s sooooooooooo BIG!” I yell, gritting my teeth and bearing down hard, sweat dripping off of me as I struggle to push the head down.
“I know it is,” Dotty humors me as she blots away some of the perspiration, “Just keep pushing. You’ll get it. Push, Mandy, push!”
My whole body shakes as I bear down, and I can feel the area between my legs start to burn as the head begins to emerge from my body. “UUUUGGGGHHH! Here it comes!”
I move my feet wider apart, trying to make more room for the baby, grunting as I feel pressure from the bulging head. “Mmmmmm! MMMMMMM! Baby’s coming!”
“Ohhhhh, yes it is!” Dr. Harris leans over behind me, “I can see the head, Mandy!
You’re doing great!”“Your baby’s almost here, Mandy!” Ellen exclaims, “Give us a big push now!”
I push and scream and sob for what seems like hours, but I can’t move the head any lower. No matter how hard I push, my labia hold the head back, not letting any more of it emerge. “Come on, Mandy, we need a really hard push now!”
I squeeze my eyes shut and bear down as hard as I can, my body trembling with the force of the push. “NNNUUUGGGGH!”
“Harder, Mandy! Push hard!”
My eyes roll back in my head, and I sway dangerously, my head spinning. I’m pushing as hard as I can, and the head still isn’t moving. “I caaannnn’ttt push harder!”
I wail, “Uuuuugggghhh! This kid’s too BIG! Can’t move it! I CAN’T MOVE IT!”
“Let’s try another position,” Ellen says practically, “She’s not getting anywhere like this.” Hands pull me to my feet. I stand awkwardly, my back bowed under the weight of my belly, my thighs wide apart to accommodate the head. “Let’s get you back on the bed, Mandy,” Ellen suggests, the three of them doing almost all of the work. It’s all I can do to lift one knee onto the bed, my tender vagina ready to burst from the strain. With Dr. Harris behind me shoving, I manage to crawl onto the bed, wavering on all-fours as another brutal contraction rips through me,I lean back on my haunches and scream as I bear down, hoping the new position will let the head out easily.
I dig my ﬁngers into the bed’s plush cover as I strain hard, howling when the head still remains ﬁrmly stuck within me. “I CAAAANNNN’TTTT! NNNUUUUUGGGGGGHHHH!”
“Yes, you can, Mandy! Push! Push hard!”
My whole body is shaking as I push, every sinew of my being straining to get the baby out of me. My toes curl with the effort, and I push until my vision starts to gray out, stopping only long enough to suck in another breath before getting back to work. My tortured screams echo in the room as I struggle to deliver the head, feeling like I’m about to split in half.
“That’s it, Mandy! Just keep pushing! Push! PUSH, Mandy!”
“I’m TRYING!” I yell back, tears pouring down my face from the pain and frustration. I’m giving it everything I’ve got and I still can’t get the head out, the burning stretch more than I can handle.
Dr. Harris splays his ﬁngers over my red-hot tissues, feeling the baby’s skull jammed inside of me. “You’ve got a nice, big bulge down here, Mandy. You’re almost done.”The next contraction is my worst yet, and I roar in agony as I bear down, my hips about to pop out of their sockets from the size of the baby I’m trying to push out.
“You’re starting to open up a little,” Dr. Harris tells me, my desperate efforts still not enough to get the head to crown.
“I can see a little bit of the head,” Ellen tells me, clearly expecting me to be pleased with the update.
“GET THIS KID OUT OF ME!” I bellow, still bearing down with every breath, the urge too overwhelming to resist. I’m at the end of my rope, exhausted, in agony, and the baby still isn’t here.
“Push it out, Mandy!” Dotty orders, her face inches from mine, “Come on. Push-pushPUSH!”
I give another mighty push, my face turning purple from the effort I’m putting in. “AAARRRRGGGHHH!” I grunt loudly, feeling my tight labia give way a little.
“That’s it! It’s coming! PUSH!”
I take a deep breath and push again, clinging to the last remnants of my strength as I bear down. I can feel the baby moving lower, the body wriggling as it tries to ﬁnd a way out of me.
“RRAAAAAAUUUUUGGGGHHHH!” My entire body spasms as the head pushes down a little more, and I can feel my perenieum give way, my tissues tearing slightly as the head emerges to its eyebrows. The shock of the head pushing partway out of me is more than I can handle, and my arms and legs give out, sending me crashing down on the bed, landing hard on my enormous belly.
I shriek deliriously at the hideous pressure as my belly is crushed against the bed. I’m in the middle of a contraction, and the additional pressure makes me feel like I’m going to explode. I thrash my arms and kick my feet, struggling to turn myself over, but the contraction is too powerful, leaving me helpless against the onslaught of agony. Hands shove me onto my side and I roll over onto my back, my body rigid and twitching slightly with the shock as my vulva desperately tries to stretch enough to accommodate the size of the emerging head.
“Uuuuggghhh…. uuuggghhhhh…. nuuuugghhhh…”
Dotty blots my face and chest anxiously and I hear voices coming from a long way away, “Oh my god, look at that! That’s the biggest head I’ve ever seen!”
“The book said second twins were smaller!”
“They usually are! I don’t know how she carried these two around so long!”
“Well, it explains how big she was.”
“It doesn’t matter how big it is. We have to get it out of her before she goes into shock.”
“Come on, Mandy,” Dotty dribbles some cool water into my mouth as I continue to grunt in primal agony. “It’s almost over. The baby’s almost here.”
Another brutal contraction rips into me, and I arch off the bed, howling and pushing like a madwoman. I scream and curse and beg, but the baby remains right where it is, torturing my tight slit. The huge mass of skull between my legs makes me feel like I’m going to split in half. Surely it can’t come out any more without ripping me apart, but I keep pushing, not caring if I tear more, not caring if I die, only wanting this hideous pain to end.
“There you go! It’s coming. Push, Mandy, push!” Dr. Harris takes hold of one of my legs and Ellen grabs the other, pushing my knees back to my chest. “Just think how good it’s going to feel once it’s out! Push!”
I’m pushing as hard as I can, but it’s not doing any good. My vagina is tight around the head, not letting it emerge further. “UUUUUUUHHHHH! TOOO BIG!”
“It’s big, Mandy, but it’s almost out! Come on, big push! Push!”
“Harder, Mandy! Push it out!”
I shriek in agony as I feel a terrible stabbing pain between my legs. Dr. Harris is probing my vaginal lips with his free hand, trying to ease them back over the huge head so it can emerge completely. “NOOOOOOOO!” I wail, struggling to close my legs, but he and Ellen have a ﬁrm grip on me, holding me wide open.
My back arches convulsively as I bear down, and I feel my labia tear open a little more, a white-hot lance of pain. “Holy shit! It’s ripping me apart!” I gasp in shocked pain.
“It’s coming, Mandy! A couple more pushes, and we’ll have a head down here! Push!” Dr. Harris encourages me.
I grab the sides of the bed until my ﬁngers turn white and bear down as hard as I can. My feet shove against my attendants’ hands as I try to straighten them, but they keep me in a tight ball, all of my effort being channeled into expelling the large infant. I can feel my labia being pushed open even more as more of the head appears between my legs.
“Here it comes! There’s the eyes! Here comes your baby, Mandy!”
I curl around my belly, my face set in an agonized grimace as I push with all my strength. I can feel every millimeter of the head emerging from me, my canal clenching around the huge skull. “AAAAAUUUUGGHHH!” The nose pops free, easing the pressure slightly.
“We’ve got a nose! The head’s almost out! Push, Mandy, push!”
“There’s a sweet little mouth… one more! Come on, Mandy! One more big push! PUSH!”
I sit up a little more and give the hardest push of my life, feeling the head ready to burst out of me. “HHHHHRRRRRNNNNGGGG!”
I fall backwards with a gasp of relief as the head pops out in a gush of ﬂuid that soaks the bed. My vagina lips tighten around the neck as I gasp for air, feeling like I’ve just run a marathon. Twice.
“The head’s out!” Ellen exclaims, “Oh Mandy, it’s so cute!”
Dotty looks between my legs, her eyes going wide. “You did it, Mandy! This one was face up too!”
Dr. Harris is holding the head, looking up at me over my heaving belly. “You make some big babies; I have to use both hands to hold it! No wonder you had so much trouble!”
My eyes roll back in my head as another contraction makes my belly bulge and ripple. “I wanna push again!” I gasp as Ellen leans down to look more closely at the baby.
“Not yet, Mandy,” she cautions me, and I groan as she feels around my raw labia.
“What’s wrong?” Dotty questions, and Ellen shakes her head.
“The cord’s around the neck. Just give me a minute…” She’s fumbling between my legs, and I writhe, reaching behind me to grab the head of the bed, ﬁghting the urge to bear down.
“Hurry!” I wail, body shaking as I struggle not to push, “I gotta push so bad!”
Dotty blots my face soothingly, “Just relax, Mandy.”
“Relax?!” I nearly snarl. “There’s a baby coming out of me!” I grunt, trying to look over my heaving belly and see what’s happening between my thighs. I feel tugging and pressure, but from the look on Ellen’s face, things aren’t going well.
“It’s really tight,” Ellen shakes her head. “Mandy, I’m so sorry, but-“
“AAAAUUUURRRGGHH!” My back arches convulsively, nearly knocking me off the bed as I feel my tortured labia being forced open again as Ellen pushes the head part way back in to yank the cord up and over the breadth of skull. When she lets it emerge again, I collapse on the bed, my chest heaving, moaning deliriously, “Ohhhhhhh god…. ohhhhhhhhhhh god…!”
“You’re okay,” Ellen assures me, “I’m so sorry, Mandy, but I had to get the cord loose.”
Another contraction slams into me, and I jerk upright, bracing my hands behind me, my big belly warping visibly. “I HAVE TO PUSH!”
“Push it out!” Dr. Harris orders, “You’re good to go, Mandy. Push it out of you!”
I grind my teeth and bear down, feeling the pressure of the shoulders against my fragile tissues. Despite everything I’ve been through, every push just seems to make things worse. I lean forward and grab my knees, leaning into a hard push, hoping that I’ll be able to bear down hard enough to get it out and put an end to all of this.
“Harder, Mandy! Give us another big one!”
My anguished scream ﬁlls the room as I push again, my strength at its end. Dr. Harris is tugging on the head, shifting it from side to side in an effort to free the shoulders from the clench of my body. I can feel the movement all through me, and I bear down harder, wanting only for this to end.
“Almost there! Big push!!”
“PULL IT OUT!” I scream, still pushing with all my might.
“I’m trying! PUSH!” Dr. Harris shouts back at me. Suddenly, Ellen puts both her hands on top of my heaving belly and shoves downward. I fall back on the bed, howling in agony as I feel the shoulders begin to push out of me.
“There it is! It’s coming!” Dr Harris tells me, but I’m too caught up in the moment to understand what’s happening.
“NNNAAAAAAUUUGGHHHHH!” I roar as the shoulders force their way through, my vagina burning unbearably as the tear opens up again, the sheer width of the shoulders more than I can take.
“Here comes your baby, Mandy!”
“Get it out! GET IT OUT!” I shriek, grabbing the sides of the bed as Ellen keeps pushing on my belly, forcing the baby down and out of me.
“It’s coming out!” Dr. Harris assures me, “Keep pushing!”
My opening is almost numb from the force of the huge baby emerging from my body. I dig my heels in the stirrups and give the hardest push of my life, feeling the baby squirm as the shoulders burst of out me in a gush of ﬂuid. “Here it comes!”
“UUUUNNNGGGHHHHHH!” I shove the baby out to its hips, writhing for a moment as I summon the strength for one last push. “RRRRAAAAAAUUUGGHHHH!”
For a long moment the baby strains against me, before ﬁnally pushing free. I fall back, sobbing in relief as the baby emerges from me with a slippery gush, the pain instantly forgotten as I see the huge baby boy held up proudly in Dr. Harris’s hands.
Sobbing, Dotty leans down to kiss my forehead. “It’s a boy, Mandy! You’ve got a matched set.”
Panting for breath, I watch as Ellen and Dr. Harris weigh the second twin, and Dr. Harris once again throws open the door to the medical bay. “It’s another boy!” he shouts onto the sunlit deck, “Thirteen pounds, ﬁfteen ounces!”
Ellen carefully swaddles each twin before placing the boys in my exhausted arms.
“You’re a mommy now! Say hello to your boys!”
I stare down at the twin infants in wonder, amazed that they came out of my body.
“Hi, guys,” I manage, feeling completely overwhelmed. They’re both beautiful.
I don’t have time to think of anything else to say, because the medical bay is instantly a hive of activity as the other passengers begin to pile in, wanting to admire the babies born during their vacation. Erin and Becca, my dining companions, are the most enthusiastic.
“I told you you looked like you were having twins,” Erin says smugly.
“At least it wasn’t triplets,” Becca agrees. As I drift into a well-earned sleep, I can hear Dotty laughing, “There’s always next time!”